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Rashtrapati Bhavan : 04.06.2015

Following is the full text of the statement to media by the President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee upon the conclusion of his visit to Sweden and Belarus (from May 31 to June 4, 2015). The statement was made on board the aircraft during the President’s return to New Delhi from Minsk:

"I have just concluded successful state visits to Sweden from 31 May to 2 June and Belarus from 2-4 June, 2015. I was accompanied by Shri Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilisers, Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and Shri Ashwini Kumar, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) as well as senior officials. Heads of seven leading academic institutions in India accompanied me on the two visits. A large business delegation of around 120 persons put together by FICCI, CII and ASSOCHAM also visited Stockholm and Minsk during these days and held discussions with their counterparts as well as concluded many agreements.

My visits to Sweden and Belarus were first visits ever by an Indian President to either country. They reflect the renewed emphasis that India places on further enhancing our partnership with these two countries. Both countries have been supportive of India’s claim for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. I took the opportunity to brief both leaderships on the economic situation in India as well as about policy initiatives of the government.

Sweden is an important partner with whom we have shared multi-faceted and mutually beneficial relations over several decades. Combining Swedish resources, technological expertise and innovation with India’s young and growing market offers synergies that can spur a fresh phase of growth in our bilateral relationship. Belarus is a key partner in the wider Eurasian region with many strengths. India-Belarus relations are based on goodwill among our people for each other and a positive legacy of cooperation in multilateral fora, including at the United Nations.

In Sweden, King Carl XVI Gustaf and the entire Royal family received me warmly and accompanied me for the entire duration of my visit. I held wide-ranging discussions on bilateral as well as regional and multilateral issues with the King and Prime Minister Stefan Lofven. I also met the Speaker of the Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) Mr. Urban Ahlin, Members of Parliament belonging to different parties and the Leader of Opposition.

The focus of my visit to Sweden was to strengthen bilateral economic ties and to provide impetus to our cooperation in specific areas of priority to us in which Sweden has established strengths. Sweden is one of the top three innovative nations in the world as well as a leader in smart urbanization, transport and waste management, green technologies, renewable energy, health, education and research. Six intergovernmental agreements were concluded, covering cooperation in the fields of urban development, medium and small-scale enterprises, polar research, civil nuclear research and medicine. Seventeen MoUs were further signed between educational institutions, think tanks and the Chambers of Commerce of the two countries.

I also announced Government of India’s decision to grant Swedish nationals e-tourist visa. This, along with signature of an Agreement on Diplomatic visa waiver, will facilitate travel between the two countries and boost people-to-people ties.

In all my meetings, I found a significant convergence of mutual interests and a genuine deep-seated desire for closer cooperation. Sweden expressed its support for our membership of the Missile Technology Control Regime. They also reiterated their firm support for India’s claim for a permanent seat in an expanded United Nations Security Council. The Swedish Prime Minister readily agreed to my suggestion that we seek to enhance our bilateral trade to US $ 5 billion in the next three years. The Swedish side also expressed their keenness for the conclusion of negotiations on the India-EU Trade and Investment Agreement.

In Sweden, I had opportunity to interact with the heads of leading Swedish multinationals. They were uniformly upbeat about their prospects in India and conveyed their intention to further expand operations and investments. I attended a presentation by Sweden’s leading medical scientists at the prestigious Karolinska Institute and addressed the business as well as Indian community. I also delivered a public lecture on the contemporary relevance to global peace of Tagore and Mahatma Gandhiji at Uppsala University, one of the oldest universities of Europe.

I extended invitations to His Majesty The King and the Prime Minister of Sweden to visit India to provide continued momentum to the relationship. A formal invitation was also extended to the Swedish Speaker from our Speaker.

In Minsk, I was received warmly by President Alexander Lukashenko. We held wide-ranging, substantive and forward-looking discussions on bilateral issues as well as regional developments. President Lukashenko and I agreed that the time had come to elevate India-Belarus relations to a higher trajectory, building on the enormous potential in trade and investment, defence cooperation, science and technology as well as educational and academic linkages.

I suggested to President Lukashenko that we engage on a four-fold framework for enhanced cooperation comprising regular political and institutional dialogue, rapid increase in commercial and economic interaction, a paradigm shift in defence cooperation towards joint research, design and manufacturing as well as wide-ranging expansion of our S&T, educational, cultural and people-to-people exchanges. President Lukashenko responded positively to my proposals and underlined that Belarus considers India a partner of choice as well as a reliable and loyal friend. Five agreements and MOUs were signed, covering cooperation in textiles, standardization, capital markets and broadcasting. A focused and substantive Roadmap for India-Belarus Cooperation was also agreed, which identifies specific areas for closer interaction in the days ahead.

I conveyed the decision of Government of India to grant Market Economy Status to Belarus, which had been a long-standing request of the Belarus side. This decision would open up new avenues for bilateral trade as well as facilitate the integration of Belarus in international trade structures. India will also extend a new Line of Credit of US$ 100 million to Belarus for implementation of mutually agreed joint projects, thereby further deepening our economic ties.

Seven MOUs were signed between Indian and Belarusian Universities and Institutes. I was honoured to unveil a bust of Mahatma Gandhi at the prestigious Belarus State University campus. The University conferred upon me Professor Honoris Causa, which I was pleased to accept as manifestation of the high regard and affection of the people of Belarus towards India.

I met Prime Minister Andrei V. Kobyakov and the Chairman of the Council and Chairman of the House of Representatives of the National Assembly of Belarus. I extended an invitation to President Lukashenko to visit India, which he accepted with pleasure. President Lukashenko and I also addressed business representatives from both countries.

There is increasing awareness on both sides of growing business opportunities, building on the new focus on manufacturing in India under our ‘Make in India’ initiative as well as the wider market offered by the Eurasian Economic Union for investors in Belarus. Agricultural machinery, mining equipment, heavy construction equipment and defence were identified as potential areas for manufacturing ventures in India. Belarus is keen to see greater Indian investments in manufacture of pharmaceuticals. Several commercial agreements have also been concluded. We proposed increasing our trade turnover to US$ 1 billion in the next five years, which should be achievable.

I wish to thank my hosts for the warm hospitality extended to me and my delegation during my visits to their respective countries. These visits have helped deepen our mutually beneficial relations. I return with the conviction that the governments of both countries are keen to take their bilateral relationship with India to much higher levels. India will actively work towards enhancing our partnership with Sweden and Belarus in the days to come”.

This release issued at 1630 hrs.